Friday, September 15, 2017

Thoughts on skincare, aging, and indulgence

A recent move from Michigan to Texas (which is my excuse for the prolong hiatus here) has me thinking a lot of about skincare, beginning with how I need to adjust my usual routine to suit the new climate I'm now living in. Thinking about my goals and preferences when it comes to looking after my skin leads to all sorts of other tangential pondering about skincare in general. For instance, my skin has actually been quite good since I arrived at my new (temporary) home, and yet I'm still motivated to use all sorts of products and to try new things.

And what exactly constitutes "good skin" anyway? Or "good enough" (if such a thing exists)? For instance, I haven't been breaking out much, to the extent that I was a bit surprised to get my period, since I hadn't had my usual harbinger of cystic chin acne this month. So less acne = good, for me, ok. The texture of my skin has also been pretty nice: soft and smooth, pores aren't too enlarged. So I guess those are also things that matter to me for some reason.

On the other hand, I've been noticing lines more, whether or not they are more pronounced than they used to be or it's just because I don't have other issues to distract me from them. In a particularly ridiculous moment, I found myself browsing Instagram for closeups of faces of women younger than me to confirm that the wrinkles under my eyes weren't abnormal.

Skincare is obviously a hobby and a fascination for me, but I don't approach it without a generous amount of ambivalence. When you start looking at skincare products and reading about skincare routines, you realize that if you adhere strictly to much of the advice out there, you'll discover that there is apparently not a single person on the planet whose face doesn't have a flaw to fix. Whatever happened to "normal" skin? We're too oily or too dry--or both. Too much redness or dark spots. Pores are too big or too much acne. Too flaky or too shiny or not shiny ("dewey") enough. Too saggy or not soft enough. Too light or too dark. Too dull and not bright enough. Too many lines or too much puffiness. It's endless. It can be really hard to conclude that your skin is just fine.

Even our old gurus, like Paula Begoun for instance, who used to say that "not everyone needs a moisturizer," are going to try to sell us all moisturizers (and eye creams and essences . . . ). I'm not immune to this. When I was younger, I never used moisturizer, and my skin felt fine. Now I moisturize with different products a couple of times a day. Sure, skin often gets drier as we age, but do I really need all that? Or have I just got used to it? My mother almost never moisturizes, and her skin is neither dry nor oily. Again, remember "normal" skin?

But I have all these products, and they're fun to use (most of the time) so I use them. The pleasure we derive from our beauty routines isn't a bad thing. It's no more frivolous to have this as a hobby than to tinker with cars or knit or play video games. But it's a slippery slope from hobby into luxury and self-care. These are not always bad things either. Getting myself ready for work in the morning could be considered a form of self-care, because I get to sit quietly for 20 or 30 minutes and carry out my routine and start the day in a less stressed and more focused state of mind. But I think there's a difference between that and feeling like my problems can be alleviated with a little consumerism and that if I've had a rough time I deserve to treat myself to a new purchase. (I've written about self-care and consumerism before, and also see this Buzzfeed article about self-care and influencers.)

I try not to judge people who collect things, whether they're Funko dolls or exfoliants. But outside of those people who have the disposable income to collect one of every enticing skincare product, there's definitely some worrying overconsumption happening. Again, I'm not immune or exempt from this--I am quite aware of how much perishable shit I own, because I had to pack it up and move it with me across the country (THREE backups of PC 2% BHA liquid? Really, bitch?). If you follow skincare enthusiasts (or collectors, as you could call them) on Instagram, however, you're likely to be confronted with #shelfies of dozens of products and to see their morning and evening routines consisting of 5-8 products each, which change significantly every day. Again, they're obviously having fun, but seeing that over and over can create the impression that a "proper" skincare routine requires a lot of purchasing.

There are also, of course, the trendy and exorbitantly-priced products and brands that tend to appear regularly in these photos alongside glowing reviews. I've found, nevertheless, that there's little correlation between effectiveness and price when it comes to skincare. Some expensive things are great, and some are terrible. Some cheap things are great, and some are terrible. But the self-care, "treat yourself" mentality suggests that you're doing it better if you buy something luxurious (i.e. pricey) than merely something that's effective and pleasant to use, but cheap. In reality, you can have beautiful, well-cared-for skin (according to whatever definition you choose) even if you only own a handful of affordable products. Say sunscreen, moisturizer, and a serum in the morning, and cleanser, exfoliant, and moisturizer in the evening. Or less. Maybe you don't need to moisturize!

Returning again to that definition of good skin, it's a tricky concept. Most skincare products seem designed to do one of two things: to make skin "clearer" (less red, smoother, smaller pores, fewer pimples) or to reverse/prevent aging (again with the pores, fewer lines, tighter skin, fewer dark spots, etc.). Obviously there is significant overlap between these categories. But I wonder, did you ever notice someone's pores before you got interested in skincare? Did you ever notice your own pores? All faces have pores of varying sizes! Try looking at images of beautiful celebrities that aren't airbrushed to death and allow yourself to feel some relief that porelessness is not an achievable (or desirable!) goal.

Natalie Portman, Hollywood Reporter, May 2015
Saffron Burrows in Mozart in the Jungle

Anti-aging rhetoric is even more insidious and polarizing. (Allure magazine recently made the choice to cut it out.) A lot of the things we try to "fix" with skincare are things that happen naturally and inevitably to our skin as we age. And there are a lot of factors that affect them other than which or how many skincare products you use: genetics, skin type, time spent in the sun, environment, stress, and so on. What's wrong with looking your age anyway? Part of the problem is that it's hard to know exactly what "looking your age" means, because we are now used to seeing celebrities in their 70s who look younger than Audrey Hepburn did when she died at 63, because of all the subtle (or not-so-subtle) clinical procedures they've had done. And increasing use of sunscreen, probably. There's also the gendered/sexist aspect of anti-aging pressure, which tells us that men look better with a few wrinkles and women don't. Women don't get to be rugged. So when I slather on the sunscreen every day, there's a part of me that feels shitty for buying into all of that (I could pretend I'm doing it solely to prevent skin cancer, but let's be real--plus that doesn't explain the rest of my skincare hoard).

So all this rambling thought leaves me wondering why exactly I enjoy playing around with skincare products as much as I do when the whole concept can be so fraught. I have to admit to myself that vanity is a part of it, but I don't think that explains it all, because if I really just wanted to look better, surely I'd learn to style my fucking hair already.

I've narrowed it down to two other things: science and control. I like that skincare is a kind of experiment I can perform on myself. I like learning about all the many ingredients out there and what they can and can't and might do. I'm a researcher by profession and by nature. I especially like debunking the bullshit claims that brands and their devotees make--that's really what got me interested in all of it in the first place (see, again, Paula Begoun).

But another motivation that's been increasingly evident for me is the desire to try to exert control over some aspect of my life. That's something most of us need, and if, like me, you've been on the academic (or any!) job market during in the last decade, you might feel it more than others. I can't control what I will be doing or where I will be living or how I will be living a year or even 6 months from now, most of the time, but maybe I can control what happens to my face. (Maybe I can't. But it's somehow gratifying to try.) This is different from my interest in makeup, which I see as more of a low-stakes, low-energy creative outlet.

Anyway, if you've managed to follow my stream of consciousness here, I'd love to hear your perspective. Do you even give a shit about skincare? (I don't assume that everyone who reads here does.) Why or why not? Are your feelings conflicted at all, like mine clearly are? If so, what is it that bothers you the most about the marketing and conversation and media that surrounds skincare? If you're 100% into the whole skincare thing, what is it about it that fascinates you?

To reference an outdated meme, [my] fave is problematic.

(I'm also open to suggestions for adjusting routines to hotter and/or dryer climates. Ahem.)

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Midsummer Empties

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Nope, it's not midsummer anymore, but that's when I took these photos, so that shows you how far behind I am on posting things. Everything's in flux--I moved from my previous apartment to a 6-week sublet, and I'll be moving from here to Texas in a week and a half with only as much stuff as I can fit in our car. And on top of our car in one of these strap-on bags. Deciding what to take and what to store for the next year has made me more brutal than I might otherwise be when it comes to culling my hoard, so I've split my empties here into three categories: full-size empties, mini-empties, and shit that wasn't empty but I threw it away anyway.

As always, I'll give you a few words about whether or not I liked the product and/or link you to previous reviews.


Midsummer Empties

(Starting the the top left:)

O'Keeffe's Healthy Feet Foot Cream: Love it! Reviewed here. I've got the version in the squeeze tube now.

Batiste Dry Shampoos in Bare and Neon Lights: Batiste is my favorite dry shampoo (reviewed here), and I liked these scents, though not as much as the cherry fragrance.

Bioderma Sensibio Micellar Water: I ended up liking this quite a lot, even though I never got around to reviewing it. I used it as a second cleanse when double cleansing. I'm now trying the Simple micellar water, which works ok, but I find it to be a bit more drying. I haven't decided if I should buy another bottle of Bioderma when I finish that one, or if I should try the Garnier stuff that people say is the same. Suggestions?

Tree Hut Shea Moisturizing Body Wash in Almond and Honey: Another favorite. Reviewed here. Maybe I should try one of the other scents next time?

e.l.f. Daily Brush Cleaner: This took me years to finish. It's basically just alcohol in a spray bottle, so I'd recommend using that instead.

e.l.f. Blotting Papers: These also took many years to finish, mostly because I kept misplacing them. They work.

A'Pieu NanCo Tea Tree Spot Patches: I'm not sure these actually did anything for me, even though tea tree oil is usually a good spot acne treatment for my skin. (Emi from Project Swatch gave these to me to try out--thanks!)

CosRx Acne Pimple Master Patches: Reviewed here. I like these things a lot. My skin was pretty shitty last month, and so I went through three packets of these in quick succession. I still have a couple left, and I'm thankfully using those up more slowly.

Paula's Choice Skin Balancing Invisible Finish Moisture Gel: Briefly reviewed here. I've been using this moisturizer for about a decade now, and I still love it. I'm sad that it's become so expensive, and that the closest cheap alternative I'd found seems to have been discontinued. I've moved on to a new tube of this stuff now, but when it runs out, I'll have to think carefully about whether or not it fits into my budget anymore. (By the way, cutting the tube open to get a few more uses out of it doesn't work very well, because it will dry out over night.)


Midsummer Empties

Smashbox foundation and concealer sampler card: I tried the lightest shade of each of these, and neither of them really impressed me. Mind you, it's pretty hard to tell much about a foundation from a sample that size.

Nars Audacious Lipstick in Audrey: This was a sample from the now-defunct So Choix. It was a nice lipstick, but not so amazing that I plan to buy it.

Paula's Choice BHA 9: I didn't notice any real results from using this as a spot treatment, even though it tends to be well reviewed.

Origins Modern Friction Scrub: I don't know. It was fine. Chunky. Nothing special.

Fragrance samples: Juliette Has a Gun Lady Vengeance, Mad Madame, and Miss Charming. Also Atelier Cologne Rose Anonyme. All poorly reviewed here. I bought a full(ish) size bottle of Lady Vengeance.

Urban Decay Naked Skin Color Corrector sampler card: I bought the yellow corrector after trying one of these samples (reviewed here). I like the pink too, but the others don't do much for me.

Shiseido White Lucent Anti-Dark Circle Eye Cream: I can't say I noticed any lightening of my very dark circles while I used this sample, even though it seemed to last forever. It didn't give me any milia, though, which more than I can say for most eye creams.

Yu-Be Moisturizing Skin Cream: This stuff has an extremely strong eucalyptus/menthol fragrance and corresponding tingle. I used it on some dry spots on my knees. It worked fine.


Midsummer Empties

Paula's Choice Resist Weekly Resurfacing 4% BHA: I really didn't notice any better results using this weekly than just using the 2% BHA liquid daily, so in over a year, I never managed to finish it.

e.l.f. Makeup Lock & Seal: I have no idea how many years I've had this, but I discovered it forgotten in a drawer, and since I apparently hadn't missed it, I reasoned that I didn't need to keep it.

pür Minerals 4-in-1 Pressed Powder: I finished a whole full-size compact of this stuff before buying this mini. Unfortunately, they reformulated it, and while the new version is easy to apply, it wears terribly on my combination skin. I got tired of being horrified when I looked in the mirror at the end of the day. Bye.

Maybelline The Falsies Mascara: This mascara looked pretty--until it flaked all over the place, starting in the first hour of wear. I know that flaking and smearing are related to individual body chemistry, so you may not have the same problem. Usually I use even mediocre mascaras until they dry up, but I didn't make myself suffer through this.

Too Faced Lip Insurance Lip Primer: This stuff works great (reviewed here), and it lasted forever. I didn't manage to finish it all before it started to get a little funky. I've bought a new tube since.

e.l.f. Shimmering Facial Whip in Lilac Petal: Reviewed here. There was nothing wrong with this stuff when it was new, but I've been trying to finish a Benefit High Beam for about a century, and so I haven't touched it. It didn't need to come with me.

So Choix samples of Smashbox matte liquid lipstick and Lancome Juicy Shaker: Just didn't like them enough to keep them around.

theBalm Time Balm Concealer: Reviewed here. Very, very old.

LA Girl Pro Conceal HD Concealer: Reviewed here. It wasn't the worst, but the issues with separating that I mentioned in my review got much worse over time. The last time I opened it and tried to squeeze some out, a geyser of clear liquid shot into the air. Fuck that.

L'Oreal Telescopic Mascara: Reviewed here. Again, an ok mascara, but I stabbed myself in the eye with the tiny bristles three times in a row and threw it out in a fit of anger. Life's too short, etc.

So that's all my July garbage, and I'll toss a bunch of other shit before I leave the state next month! In the meantime, I actually have a review of something shiny lined up, so here's to trying to get that written up in a reasonable amount of time.

Tell me about products you got fed up with and threw away before they were finished!

Monday, August 14, 2017

Review of Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Liquid Sunscreen Broad Spectrum SPF 70

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Recently, on a trip to Canada to visit my family, I spent almost $60 on sunscreen. I'm going to need some good shit for the coming year, because at the end of this month I'll be moving to Texas for 3 months, and then from there to southern California for 9 months. It'll be an adventure, and a sunnier one than the last decade I've spent in the Midwest (my entire life in the U.S. to date!). It seems a little odd to stock up on sunscreen in Canada for travels in the hottest parts of America, but there are some formulas and ingredients that are available there and not here. More on those another day!

Before my trip, however, I had already run out of my previous sunscreen and tried a new one that I wasn't feeling (reviewed here). So I decided to buy something local, affordable, and accessible: Neutrogena. Neutrogena must be one of the best-selling sunscreen brands in North America, and they have come out with a lot of new products in the years since my go-to facial sunscreen was their Dry Touch Lotion. That's a decent product, but after some consideration, I decided to try the Ultra Sheer Liquid SPF 70, which comes highly reviewed and recommended.

It is a liquid formula, as you can see below, and the narrow dispenser works very well. It's not too runny, which makes it easy to apply without making a mess.

Review of Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Liquid Sunscreen Broad Spectrum SPF 70

It's spreadable, but not super-slick. I wouldn't be able to spread the amount shown above over my entire face, for instance, which I would probably be able to do with most sunscreens. It absorbs quickly, so you will need to work in sections. I think this is actually a good thing--it ensures that you apply enough product to cover your whole face in a good layer, instead of spreading it too thin. I do find that even though it absorbs well, it leaves my face looking and feeling a bit greasy, so I like to set it with a translucent powder even if I'm not wearing any other makeup. It works well under makeup, too, and I haven't noticed any balling up/pilling like you can sometimes get with sunscreens (though that will probably depend on what other products you use under it). It's also effective--I've worn it for prolonged periods in the sun with no burning or tanning.

Overall, the Ultra Sheer Liquid is very similar to most other "chemical" sunscreens I've tried from Neutrogena. It has a strong sunscreen smell and it burns slightly, especially around my eyes, when I first apply it. Both of those things subside after a few minutes. It is somewhat prone to smear into my eyes and sting if I make the mistake of touching them, though not as easily as some other sunscreens. Its advantage over the regular Neutrogena lotions is that, as their SPF rises, the lotions tend to get greasier, heavier, and less pleasant to use. This SPF 70 sunscreen feels about as comfortable to me as an SPF 30-45 lotion. If you like those, I think you will like this one too. I didn't enjoy it as much as the Bioré Water Gel (reviewed here), though the Neutrogena has the advantage of no fragrance or alcohol and being available just about everywhere for around $10 (I got mine at Walmart). This sunscreen won't be my new staple, but it was a great stopgap option.

What's your favorite facial sunscreen? I have pretty strong preferences, but I'm always interested in what else is out there!

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Yet Another Subculture Video (from Beauty News)

If you're like me, you know way more about the Anastasia Subculture palette and its flaws than you ever expected to know, despite not actually seeking out information about it. But even so, I encourage you to watch this strangely satisfying and fascinating video demonstration of how weirdly the shadows in the palette perform. It's fun.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Do I Need This? Root touch-up hair dye

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Welcome to the latest installment of my Do I Need This? series. In these posts, I offer my experience and opinions about whether or not I think a product or technique is worth it. Obviously, you don't really need ANY beauty products, so the answer to the question is always going to be no, to some extent. But is it going to change your life (or face)? Is it going to make things easier? Are you going to notice any difference at all? That's what I'm getting at. You may disagree with my verdict, because we all have different bodies/faces/brains/desires, but I'll try to offer a starting point, at least.

Do root touch-up hair color kits actually work?

Do I need a root-touch up hair dye product? 

Short answer: No, just buy a regular box of dye that's a good match and a brush to apply it to your roots.

Here's the story: A few months ago, I dyed my hair red, which is a color I love having, but which is one of the most difficult to keep up. Most reds fade like crazy. The two biggest causes of fading hair color are sun and water. I already stay out of the sun for the most part, but for good measure I also used a UV serum from Alterna that I bought from Hollar. At the same time, I cut back washing my hair from 6-7 times a week to every second or third day (and increased my dry shampoo use accordingly). My red still faded, but less than it might otherwise have done. The downside to my success was that my naturally dirty blonde roots became increasingly noticeable as they grew in.

At first I was just going to buy a box of the dye I'd originally used, L'Oreal Superior Preference 6AB Chic Auburn Brown, which I bought from Amazon. I like coloring my own hair. It's fun. It's cheap. And normally I'm pretty good at it. You can see how it looked right after I colored it on my Instagram here. But I had a CVS coupon. Unfortunately, neither of the CVS stores near me had that specific color in stock. So instead of paying full price ($9) for another box from Amazon, I decided to use the coupon for a box of Clairol Nice n Easy Root Touch-Up, which ended up costing about $6-7. The color range is quite small, so I went with what seemed closest to the current, slightly faded color of my lengths, 6R Light Auburn/Reddish Brown.

I quickly experienced some buyer's remorse and contemplated returning it and getting the real deal. But I convinced myself to give it a shot. If it worked, I'd have saved a little money. If it didn't work, I'd get a blog post out of it, at least.

Spoiler: It didn't work, and here's my blog post.

My first mistake was believing, without confirming, that this root touch-up stuff would be something like the Just For Men dyes, where you custom mix just the amount you need, and then you can reuse what's left in the future when your roots grow in a bit more. No, of course we ladies cannot have something as practical as that. It's a single-use product. You mix the two components of the dye in a little tray, and it comes with a brush to paint the color on your roots. The instructions tell you to start with the most visible roots at the front and in your part, and then work from there. Because I was paranoid that there would be a stark difference between my roots and the rest of my hair, I used the brush to pull some of the dye down in streaks from my roots, especially at the front. It was a good idea, because if I hadn't, I think it would have looked even worst than it did.

The thing with red dye is that for the first couple of days it tends to be WAY BRIGHTER than the color it soon settles into. So when I rinsed out the dye, let my hair dry, and found that I now had pretty intense, burgundy-red hair on the top of my head (light auburn brown my ass), I tried to remain calm. Give it a couple of days, and it might fade to the promised shade. Here's how it looked on day 1:

I actually think the contrast is somewhat less noticeable in the photos than it was in person, but you can see the darker red framing my face (again, that would have stopped abruptly had I not combed the color through a bit).

Okay, three days later:

Not better. I also took photos on the fourth and fifth and sixth days, but I won't bore you with them, because they're the same. On the one hand, kudos to this hair color for staying power! Too bad it's neither light nor reddish brown.

Eventually, since I'd created this mess just before moving, I found time about a week later to completely redo my hair color. I used Clairol Nice n Easy 6.5R Natural Light Radiant Auburn--which is much more radiant than natural and was definitely clown-orange for a couple of days. But it's more realistic, and very pretty, now. (I'd asked for recommendations on Instagram for good red dyes, and then ended up not using them, because with a combination of coupons and ExtraBucks, this box of dye cost me 12 cents at CVS. But I am keeping that excellent list of suggestions for future reference.)

In the end, I can't advise buying a product like this, particularly if you are touching up your roots after using a color that has faded significantly. Possibly with a dark brown, where you can be more assured of a match, and where the old color is more likely to have stayed deep and rich despite your roots growing out, you might have better luck. But with a red dye, it's a gamble. Since the regular price of one of these kits is $8+, you'd be much better off just finding your original color on sale (or not!) and using that to touch up your roots. Hair color brushes are not difficult to come by, so there's no need to buy a root touch-up kit just to get one of those. I got my mixing bowl and brush from Sally Beauty, but here's a set for $3 and free shipping on Amazon.

I walked around for a week looking like a failed beauty experiment, but at least I did it for science the blog.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Amazon Prime Day Beauty Deals

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So Amazon is having their annual sale extravaganza for Prime members. Honestly, a lot of the deals are not that exciting, and I get the impression that it's basically a clearance sale where they're trying to get rid of crap they have too much of. I would advise trying not to impulse purchase things just because they seem to be on sale (advising myself as much as anyone else), because it's hard to tell how much cheaper some things are than they were a week ago (regardless of whether or not they're labelled "30% off"). But if one of your staple or wishlist items is cheaper than usual here, you might as well get it now. You can click "Watch this deal" to find things that sound promising again later.

You can find all the beauty deals here. Here are some specific lightning deals that are coming up over the rest of the day (most of which are things I've tried myself in the past and liked): Paula's Choice 2% BHA Liquid, Maybelline Creamy Matte Lipsticks, Physician's Formula Eye Boosters Liquid LinerLime Crime Velvetines, L'Oreal Superstar Mascara, Nip & Fab Glycolic Pads, Body Shop Chamomile Makeup Remover, Acure Argan Oil or Marula Oil, Coastal Scents Revealed 2 Eyeshadow Palette, and the Wet Brush. I have no idea what the discounts on these products will be, but maybe there will be a pleasant surprise in there somewhere.

For those of you who don't have the time to stalk individual deals, there are also a bunch of "luxury" beauty products for 30-40% off. I was excited to see some Juliette Has A Gun fragrances in that section, but unfortunately the only two marked down are the ones I find least interesting: Romantina and Miss Charming. But this Instain blush trio from theBalm is tempting--I like the one Instain blush I have a whole lot (swatched in my previous post).

Also, if you've never purchased from the "luxury" beauty section, you can use the code NEW2LUXPD17 when you check out to get 30% off anything from that department. They have theBalm, OPI, Mario Badescu, Bioderma, Klorane, L'Occitane, La Roche-Posay, Clarisonic, Blinc, Zoya, Stila, LORAC, Jouer, Indie Lee, and a lot of other brands. Even though I am pretty sure I've shopped in the luxury section before, I was able to use the code to get the 1 oz. Juliette Has A Gun Lady Vengeance dropper bottle for $35.

So are you shopping or abstaining? Or are you above it all and not a Prime member to begin with? I'm not sure I'm going to renew my membership when it expires next month. I need to actually make shopping more difficult for myself.

Sunday, July 9, 2017

All My Blushes

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All My Blushes

At the end of the summer my husband and I will be moving--first to Texas for three months and then to California for the next nine months. Since we're going to be looking at temporary/shared housing, I'm trying to downsize as much as possible (or at least to minimize what I take with me rather than storing in my mother-in-law's basement). I'll be on a postdoc fellowship with a fairly scanty stipend, so I'm also trying to take whatever I can to avoid shopping during that time. It's a tricky line to walk between packing light and buying duplicate shit that I already have. So far my packing list includes clothes, a very few books (we'll need library cards), only the most vital kitchen supplies (like the french press and the smoothie blender), and sheets and towels. Of course, necessities also include makeup and toiletries for me, both because I want to use up things I already own rather than buying them new, and also because I want to continue blogging while I'm out west. Still, I've managed to weed out a ton of stuff, most of which I'll give away, and to store a few things rediscover a year from now. (Does anyone else have a recurring dream in which they go back to their parents' house and find a closet full of amazing clothes that they'd forgotten? No? I should probably have myself examined. Anyway, that's how I picture my reunion with my stored makeup.) I'm storing most of my nail polish, for instance, and only taking these bottles along.

While organizing and packing (did I mention we're also moving into a local sublet this month where we'll be staying for six weeks?), I was inspired to swatch all of my blushes, so that's what this is all about. Because my skin tone is quite neutral, I'm able to wear all sorts of blush colors. The only ones I've had much trouble with are peaches that are too orangey, like Milani Luminoso. I was pleased to realize when I looked at all of these blushes together that I didn't have many dupes or near-dupes.

This post is going to be pretty casual: I'll show you swatches and talk a little about each product. I haven't taken new photos of most of these blushes on my face, but where there are illustrations in previous posts, I've linked to them. The swatches here represent my entire blush hoard with the exception of a coupe of things I've already put into my discard pile and the blushes in a BareMinerals palette that I put into storage (one of which I swatched here).

Here's the first batch, sort of grouped according to formula and then color:

Cream blushes: Wet N Wild Silk Finish Lipstick in What's Up Doc?,  NYX Cream Blush in Tea Rose, Marcelle Cream Blusher in Raspberry, e.l.f. Cream Blush in Vixen, and Stila Convertible Color in Poppy

Cream blushes, left to right:

Wet N Wild Silk Finish Lipstick in What's Up Doc? and NYX Cream Blush in Tea Rose

Swatches of Wet N Wild Silk Finish Lipstick in What's Up Doc? and NYX Cream Blush in Tea Rose

Please excuse the long scratch on my forearm in every photo here! My foster cat loves to be picked up and carried around, but does not like to have her nails trimmed, so there's always a long claw left behind to get me. And I can't take photos with my left hand, so here we are.

For cream blushes, I made a heavy finger swatch of each blush and then blended it out with whatever was left on my finger. For the powder blushes I did the same thing with an eyeshadow brush that's particularly good for swatching (used here, for example). It's easy to see how different your typical eyeshadow and blush are when you swatch them with the same brush!

I keep What's Up Doc? with my blushes rather than with my lipsticks, because it makes a terrible lipstick and a great cream blush. The slipperiness that makes it a disaster on my lips makes it easy to blend as a blush, though since it's very pigmented, I have to use it extremely sparingly. It also stains, which personally I like. (If you want to see it on my lips, here.)

Tea Rose is a terracotta shade that's on the neutral side but still warm enough that it looks best on me when my hair is dyed red, as it is now. You can see it on my face in this post. It's getting a little old, but I love the formula and it seems to be in perfect shape, still, so it's a keeper for now. It's more susceptible to fluctuations in temperature than my other cream blushes, so I guess we'll have to see how well it survives the early-September road trip south.

Marcelle Cream Blusher in Raspberry, e.l.f. Cream Blush in Vixen, and Stila Convertible Color in Poppy

Swatches of Marcelle Cream Blusher in Raspberry, e.l.f. Cream Blush in Vixen, and Stila Convertible Color in Poppy

Raspberry is one the only blush here for which I've bought a replacement. This is my second one (and they've changed the packaging since). It's not flashy or anything, but it's a flattering shade on me and a formula that's easy to use. It's a subdued rosy plum (not berry!!), similar to my natural flush. It blends nicely and doesn't fade easily. Raspberry is my default choice when I want some color but don't want my blush to stand out much. I think Marcelle is only available in stores in Canada at this time, though they do have a US website.

Vixen has been discontinued along with the other blushes of this type, but you can read my full review here, if you want. The formula was just like those weird Maybelline Bouncy Blushes. This color is somewhere between red and fuschia--it tends to pull more red on me. I'm pretty sure I will have this blush until the day I die and never finish it, even though I use it semi-regularly.

Poppy is my purest red blush, and it's more of A Look than the others. It does a kind of fairytale, Snow White thing on me, which I like, but which isn't something I go for every day. I don't use it as a lip product, by the way. Like most multi-use products, it's too drying for my lips.

Powder blushes, neutral/coral/peach, left to right:

Unknown very old Quo holiday palette, Unknown Ulta brand GWP blush, Milani Baked Blush in Corallina, and Wet N Wild Pearlescent Pink (new version)

Unknown very old Quo holiday palette

The left swatch is the panned matte dusty rose shade at the bottom left of the palette, and the right swatch is the shimmery peach at the top right. Now would be a good time to point out that swatches aren't an obvious way to demonstrate the quality of blushes. Especially for those of us with paler skin, blushes that swatch really pigmented and opaque are going to be tricky to use, so the sheerness above is actually a good sign for me. But it can still be hard to tell from a swatch how well a blush will blend, especially since there's a difference between the bare skin on my inner forearm and the skin on my face that may be covered in various other products before I apply my blush (even if only sunscreen).

Nevertheless, I've loved both of these blushes for well over a decade now and they are still going strong. I even wore them to my wedding (you can see them on my face here), where I did something I often do: blended the two together. The peach is pretty orange/warm, and can look a little off on me depending what clothes or other makeup I'm wearing, but the combination of these two is really pretty. I recommend playing around with blush combinations if you haven't done that before. You can mix two together on your brush, for instance, or you can try using a darker or cooler shade further back on your cheekbones with a brighter or warmer shade on the apples of your cheeks.

Unknown Ulta brand GWP blush and Milani Baked Blush in Corallina

Swatches of Unknown Ulta brand GWP blush and Milani Baked Blush in Corallina

I don't use this anonymous Ulta blush often, but it's neutraliest blush I own, so I've been hanging on to it. The weird thing is that it has some colorless specks of weird glitter in it that don't do much other than being weird. You can see one of them in the top quarter of the farthest left swatch if you look closely.

Corallina applies much more nicely to my face than it appears in this swatch, and it's a more vibrant coral than it looks here. It's chock-full-o' pure gold glitter (you'll have to take my word for that too), which isn't an everyday look for me.

Wet N Wild Pearlescent Pink (the new version)

The new Pearlescent Pink is a shimmery peach, which is not the same as the old version. You can read all my rants thoughts about the old and new versions of this blush here and see them both on my face. This blush is similar to the peachy Quo blush above, so I'm really just holding on to it for comparison swatching at this point. If I ever finishing that other blush, I'll start using this one, unless I've decided to give it away in the meantime.

Powder blushes, pink and plum (left to right):

Wet N Wild Pearlescent Pink (OG) and Tarte Amazonian Clay Blush in Fearless

Swatches of Wet N Wild Pearlescent Pink (OG) and Tarte Amazonian Clay Blush in Fearless

The two versions of Pearlescent Pink are different enough that I grouped this one with the pinks rather than with the peaches. Fortunately blushes last forever, because I'll miss this stuff when it's gone. The only downside is that the shimmer can be glitzier than I'd like in direct sunlight. As I said, I have a whole Pearlescent Pink comparison post with photos here.

Tarte describes Fearless as "pink coral." Really? I mean, the plastic that the packaging is made out of could reasonably be described as coral, I suppose, but the blush itself is a completely different color. I think of this blush as more of a Barbie pink. It's not too warm and not too cool, a little bright, and fun but natural on my skin. This is my most expensive blush. I've used it many times, and as you can see from the photo above, the embossing isn't even worn down. Before buying it, I used a card sample that lasted many, many months. This is a blush that will never die.

Be a Bombshell Blush in Sweet Cheeks and theBalm Instain Blush in Pinstripe

Stain from theBalm Instain Blush in Pinstripe

Sweet Cheeks came in an Ipsy bag once upon a time. It's a nice, warm pink with some smooth shimmer, but it's quite pigmented and powdery, so I don't use it as often as I might otherwise.

Pinstripe is a deep, moody, slightly sickly plum. I like it a lot. The Instain formula is lovely. Pigmented with a very subtle, satin shimmer, easy to blend, and long-wearing. It really does stain. Here's the above swatch after removal with a makeup wipe:

Here is Pinstripe on my face. I was experimenting with a low blush placement.

I would always recommend waiting until theBalm shows up on HauteLook if you want one of their products, which is where I bought this blush. Most things will be included in the sale, and they're usually 50% off. They also have 50% off sales on the brand website now and then, but in the past there have been problems with the site crashing.

When I look at all of these blushes together I think, first, this is more blush than any one person actually needs, but also that my blush hoards pretty much covers all the bases for me. (Ok, I've been tempted on and off by Urban Decay Bittersweet, but let's try to forget that.)

As for my favorites among the bunch, that's tricky. I mean, I really love Stila Poppy, but it's not the most wearable blush here. If my favorites are the blushes I wear most often then right now they are Marcelle Raspberry, OG Pearlescent Pink, and (just while I have red hair) NYX Tea Rose. Price really isn't any indication of how much I'll like a blush or how well I'll think it performs (and I've tried out several higher end blushes that confirm that opinion).

How do you do blush, if you do it at all? Do you have just that one versatile, natural shade that you wear with everything, or do you have a whole blush wardrobe that you switch up along with the rest of your makeup? Either way, what's your favorite?

Kitten Fur perfume? On sale?

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HauteLook has Demeter fragrances on sale right now, including Kitten Fur. Has anyone smelled this in the wild (pun intended)? Actual kitten fur smells good to me as a certified crazy cat lady, but I feel like separating that smell from a physical cat could be gross. Some of their other odd scents are also included in the sale, like Dirt, Jelly Donut, and Paperback. Hmmmm.

Here's a photo of my foster kitty, Lucia, just because:

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